We’re citizens and patriots, Maoists tell Air Force
“Please do not strike at the sons and daughters of the soil,” the Communist Party of India (Maoist) appealed to the Indian Air Force. B Vijay Murty reports.india Updated: Oct 03, 2009 01:45 IST
“Please do not strike at the sons and daughters of the soil,” the Communist Party of India (Maoist) appealed to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The appeal, however, was followed by the usual threat: “And if you dare to be adventurous, be prepared for a befitting retribution.”
The communication came from the party’s second-in-command, Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji (51), a day after the Indian Air Force sought the government’s permission to strike back if its helicopters were attacked by the Maoists.
On Thursday, Air Chief Marshall P.V. Naik had said in Delhi, “We have put up a case before the Defence Ministry. It is absolutely important that the air force be allowed to fire in self-defence whenever its helicopters or air crew come under attack.”
Of late, the rebels have been targeting IAF helicopters pressed into relief and rescue operations in the Naxal-hit areas. The rebels attacked and damaged two IAF helicopters and injured a pilot in Chhattisgarh during the last one year.
But Rao said, “We did that in self-defence. Nowhere in the world, does the air force strike at its own citizens.”
Maoist rebels have a strong presence in 223 of India’s 625 districts. In eight years, the Maoists have killed about 10,500 people in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. This year alone, more than 700 have died so far.
Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram told different public forums that the Maoists were the most serious internal security threat.
The Maoists are also preparing to face the massive offensive the Centre is planning after the election results in Maharashtra are out on October 22.
Kishanji said his party had a counter-offensive plan in place. He said from his hideout in West Bengal: “It is evident that air raids are being planned by the home ministry.”
“Chidambaram is acting on the directives of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation of the US),” Kishanji said, noting, “we will teach the Centre a lesson that no other revolutionary force has taught them.”
Kishanji claimed that the Maoists, including himself, were patriots and “respectable citizens”. He said they took refuge in the jungles around 30 years back and spread their organisation over at least 11 states.
“Think over twice and thrice before going in for an air strike against the revolutionaries,” Kishanji said, adding, “should the air raids take place, they would polarise the nation as the civil society won’t watch silently.”
The Maoists have called a nationwide shutdown on Saturday demanding the release of their Politburo member, Kobad Ghandy, and Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of a Maoist-backed organisation in West Bengal, Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities.